How food products are positioned in supermarkets and increasing the availability of healthier options may encourage people to buy healthier groceries, according to new studies.
The UK research found that increasing the availability of healthier options within a category was associated with significant changes in purchasing. For instance, stocking low-fat chips next to regular chips decreased the sales of regular chips (-23 per cent in intervention stores compared with -4 per cent in control stores).
And a second study found removing chocolate and sweets from promotional stands, such as those used at Easter and Christmas, helped lessen the usual seasonal lift in sales of those items to just 5 per cent more instead of an 18 per cent increase in control stores.
Western dietary patterns tend to have a higher proportion of energy from free sugars and saturated fat than is recommended. The researchers’ findings illustrate simple ways supermarkets could intervene to help make it easier for shoppers to stick within the recommended limits.
Ways to help yourself make better supermarket choices
Of course, a great way to avoid getting too much energy from saturated fat and free sugars is to buy whole foods, where as possible, and limit your purchases of ultra-processed items. Focus on filling your trolley with vegetables and fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, wholegrain breads and cereals, healthy oils, some dairy, fish, and no more than 700-750g raw weight of meat per person for the week.
If you want a treat, a small block of dark chocolate is a great choice. It might be less economical than buying a big block, but it’ll be easier to keep your portions within a healthy range.
Or, you can stock up on unsweetened yoghurt and buy fresh or canned fruit and berries to serve it with. Even better, make your own treats at home using our healthier baking recipes. That way you know exactly what you’re getting and the effort to make the treats from scratch can help you be more mindful about portions and really savouring your goodies.
Article sources and references
- C Piernas, G Harmer, S Jebb Removing seasonal confectionery from prominent store locations and purchasing behaviour within a major UK supermarket: Evaluation of a nonrandomised controlled intervention study. Plos Medicine Published: March 24, 2022 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003951https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003951
- Scimex, 25 March 2022. Can supermarkets nudge people into buying healthier food? Accessed March 2022https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/can-supermarkets-nudge-people-into-buying-healthier-food